Long exposure photography

1Ds and 50 f/1.4 ( 45 sec exposure - NR "off"): Unsharpened 100% crop | Resized larger image

The new king of the hill ?

It's amazing how fast technology evolves. It seems like yesterday I was comparing the 1D to the D60 and going crazy over how great the Canon D60 could handle long exposures. When that camera first came out, it set precedence on achieving noiseless files, taken at up to 4-minute exposure. This ability was remarkable and raised the bar for digital photography. The 1D on the other hand, didn't perform quite as well with long-exposure shots. I speculated that this was due to the type of interline CCD sensor used.

Today, there is a new King of the hill. The 1Ds now sets the standard for digital photography and surpasses any and all competition when it comes to long exposure. In the tests I ran, this camera produced virtually noiseless images at up to 5-minutes exposure (noise reduction set to "off"), with better color, contrast and sharpness than the D60. But is it enough to justify the extra cash you'll have to lay out to keep the shutter open for that extra minute. Here are the samples, you be the judge:


1Ds and 50 f/1.4 (5-minute exposure! - NR "off"): Unsharpened 100% crop | Resized larger image


The above photo was taken in the pitch dark. Yes, if you're wondering I did have to use a flashlight to set this up since I had no contrast to focus on. At a five minute exposure time, this level of clarity, noise and detail is something new. The example crops speak for themselves. I was impressed and found the results to be quite advanced.


1Ds and 50 f/1.4 ( 1-minute exposure - NR "off"): Unsharpened 100% crop | Resized larger image


In an e-mail message from Canon's Chuck Westfall, (Assistant Director / Technical Information Dept. of Camera Division / Canon U.S.A) he says that according to Canon Inc. the EOS-1Ds's noise reduction method (setting noise reduction to "on" and using dark frame subtraction) is the same as the EOS-1D, but it is different in one respect: the algorithm begins during the actual exposure rather than afterwards, using data stored in the camera's buffer memory. For reference purposes, the EOS D30's noise reduction algorithm works like the EOS-1D, but like the EOS-1Ds, it starts with exposures longer than 1 second as opposed to exposures of 1/15 sec. and longer with the EOS-1D.

The default setting for noise reduction on the 1Ds is in the "off" position. Using this setting, long exposure shots are saved and viewed on the LCD almost immediately after waiting for the exposure time. (All samples shown here were taken with noise reduction set to "off"). Judging from my test shots, I concluded that EOS-1Ds long exposure files with noise reduction set to "off", have a very similar look to the D60's. Both cameras files are virtually noiseless, and have very few "stuck pixels".

If you turn this setting "on" then the camera will be using a dark frame subtraction technique, and you will have to wait twice as long for your image to be recorded and viewed. From my samples, I found this unnecessary for images up to 4-minute exposure since stuck pixels are kept to a minimum even for this duration. Nonetheless, it's nice that Canon included this option for those who shoot at even longer exposure times and don't mind waiting twice as long to record their images. I also noticed that long exposure 1Ds files appear sharper and have better colors/contrast on the 1Ds compared to the D60.

Westfall also said that, "When comparing the EOS-1Ds to the EOS D60, users should also note that the signal readout method for each camera is different. The EOS-1Ds uses a 2-channel reading system, compared to the single channel reading system used in the D60. This feature essentially doubles the throughput of EOS-1Ds
image data off the chip relative to the D60, and along with an expanded buffer memory, makes a 10 frame burst at 3 fps possible, even when the EOS-1Ds is set for RAW plus Large/Fine jpeg."


1Ds and 50 f/1.4 ( 30 sec exposure - NR "off" ): Unsharpened 100% crop | Resized larger image

Canon's new camera is capable of holding great tonal range in the highlights and shadows. It seems to me that all of the 1D side effects from long exposure were addressed and eliminated when making the 1Ds. Some of the side effects I'm referring to are excessive hot pixels and the purple colorization in the corners. Long exposure images from the 1Ds are clean and noiseless.